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Best option for us? Sosua, Cabarete or SE coast?

We have a nearly four-year-old whom we’d like to take on a DR trip. We’ve never been there.

My first choice (not knowing anything else) was Cabarete. I’d like to take our son to Ocean World, and that seemed like a good spot, not too far away. I like the restaurant options and the fact that there are a variety of good hotels. We’re not really interested in staying in an all-inclusive. I see many claims about how much cheaper all-inclusive resorts are, but I don’t find that to be the case, at least not for the time we’re going (late Dec/early Jan). I suppose that given the food you get, it’s a good deal, but we’d just as soon try a variety of different restaurants than only eat at resort buffets.

Anyway…the main problem with Cabarete is I’m concerned that the wind and waves will be a bit much for my preschooler. I noticed that Sosua’s beaches are a little more protected, so I thought maybe they’d be gentler…but I’m not as impressed with the hotels or restaurants (with a few exceptions), and I keep seeing comments about Sosua’s reputation, which make me a little concerned.

Punta Cana/Bavaro caught my attention because they’re so kid-friendly and the beaches are better for little ones. But it seems like nearly all the hotels are resorts, and there aren’t many other businesses. That’s just the perception I get from the Lonely Planet guide.

I guess what we’d like is a clean, not too big, not too destitute area, but not really a glam touristy place either. A little authenticity is good. We expect to spend most of our time visiting local restaurants (LOL) and hanging out at the beach, with maybe a day in Puerto Plata area (if we’re on the North Coast) and a day or two for venturing elsewhere on the Island (haven’t decided that yet).

Any tips/suggestions/info?

I would suggest that you change your travel dates to early January because end of Dec./early January will fall in the period of Dec. 31st/Jan. 1st (New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) Because of that, it will be more expensive. Also, even if you go to an All inclusive, like Casa Marina Beach in Sosua, it can still be cheaper to do that, have some meals at the resort and still venture outside of the resort everyday and eat at local eateries. Just my honest opinion.

Zannster…Although it is not as well publicized there is little difference between Cabarette and Sosua as far as the “seedy” side. The seedy side is available if you are looking for that sort of thing in either town.

Being a family you will not be approached for that purpose. IMHO, Sosua is a little less “Amercanized” thus you will get a bit more Dominican ambience. However… neither is indicitive of the Dominican Republic. You may see a touch of the real D.R., in these towns but it is not the “real D.R.”

You sound like folks that want to experience a different culture so you need to get away from the resort areas to do this.

Please do not take my comments as derisive. If you take a look at my photo site and look at the ‘campo’ photos you will see the real, and beautiful D.R.

Well I could keep looking for something a little less populated and touristy…but those pics are not quite what I had in mind. :wink: Actually, I really wanted to stay at the Natura Cabanas at first, but they’re too expensive for our budget.

Maybe some other questions ought to be:

Are the beaches/waves/wind at Cabarete too rough for young children?
Are there any other (smaller, diamond in the rough maybe) coastal towns relatively close to an airport (any airport, not just PP) that would fit what we’re looking for?
What cities would you say have the most diversity (including local style) in restaurants?

I’ll keep reading my books, but I’m starting to get a little fried from this research process. LOL

Diana - Good point on the dates.

Have you checked out the La ROmana/Bayahibe area?

i did not intimate that you should stay in the campo in the D.R. I was showing you what the D.R. was really about. I have spent over 3 years in the D.R. with over 2 years in the campo, ad I would take the campo over any all inclusive if I seriously wanted to see the real D.R.

A little. I get the impression (from my book) that most stuff isn’t near the beach, and that the main place to stay is the Casa de Campo. I’d rather be fairly close to a beach and be able to walk to everything (again, without staying in a huge resort and eating resort food). This book doesn’t even mention any beach at La Romana.

Bayahibe looks a little more interesting. I’ll check it out, thanks.

[quote=@zannster]A little. I get the impression (from my book) that most stuff isn’t near the beach, and that the main place to stay is the Casa de Campo. I’d rather be fairly close to a beach and be able to walk to everything (again, without staying in a huge resort and eating resort food). This book doesn’t even mention any beach at La Romana.

Bayahibe looks a little more interesting. I’ll check it out, thanks.[/quote]

There isn’t actually a resort in La Romana, even Casa de Campo is 15 minutes outside the city. Casa de Campo is, however, across the street from the La Romana International airport (when I landed there, my boarding pass actually called the airport “Casa de Campo” since it was originally built for the guests there) and with the airport 15 minutes and the city of La Romana being 25 minutes away from the resorts, they named the hotel area “La Romana” for ease of reference. Bayahibe is a tiny fishing village, with really only one resort (my favourite, in part for its walking distance to Bayahibe) being Sunscape Casa del Mar soon to be Dreams La Romana. All of the rest of the resorts in the area are another 10 minutes away in Dominicus. Those would be the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus, Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach/Palace, Catalonia Gran Dominicus, and Oasis Canoa. Their nearby townsite is Dominicus Americanus, developed due to tourism so not deeply cultural based, rather mostly populated by transplanted Europeans, predominantly Italians. Still lots of food and drink for sale, but not so many options on the water and again with a different influence. You can take the little bus to Bayahibe, but I enjoy being able to walk there.

With what it is you’re looking for, I’d definitely say that Bayahibe would suit you. At Sunscape/Dreams, the water is usually bathtub calm and I can direct you to a bunch of pics of tots playing at the water’s edge. If you’re after local flavour, this resort is well suited for that, having Bayahibe a 10 minute walk down the beach (longer for short legs, but not too far that you couldn’t help a little one out now and then with a little hoist). Bayahibe is a century old village with deeper historical significance than that (the site of the oldest discovered civilization in the Caribbean), with lots of restaurants and eateries, and a definite overtone of safety. I have spent a good deal of time walking around as a solo female without fear.

The resorts of this area are totally on the beach (the places you read about in La Romana aren’t), and to read here and other travel forums/sites, you’ll find that Casa de Campo is the most exclusive but not the most popular place to stay.

You can stay at these resorts and pick and choose your meals there, alternating with the offerings in town. You can even go to walk up food stands in the village which serve excellent tasting food in generous portions for great prices, but they’re usually short on vegetables. For example, you can get fried chicken, or pig’s feet (my boyfriend’s fave), with fried plantain and rice, but not a leafy green in sight. I like having a resort buffet to fill out my nutrients and you usually can’t beat the big hotel breakfast.

I have thousands of pictures of the area, of a few of the resorts, of La Romana, Bayahibe and Dominicus, and can direct you to a bunch of restaurants too, but while knowing a few recommended names might help, it’s more fun to wander around relatively lost and come to the best kept secrets on your own.

Kaki

It looks like the cheapest I can get at that resort in the time frame we have available is $2500. Ouch. There is an Oasis Canoa, which is a little cheaper - $1700. Still more than we care to spend. The Hotel Bayahibe might be doable, if there’s any room.

It’s odd that LP really doesn’t discuss the area (especially restaurants) much. The other book I have mentions it even less.

I’d definitely stay away from Cabarete if you want to swim and play with your 4 year old in in the ocean. Between the wind/waves/surf and kite sailers and boarders rocketing on and off the beach, it really isn’t a great place for swimming. The water tends to be very murky for the same reasons

[quote=@zannster]It looks like the cheapest I can get at that resort in the time frame we have available is $2500. Ouch. There is an Oasis Canoa, which is a little cheaper - $1700. Still more than we care to spend. The Hotel Bayahibe might be doable, if there’s any room.

It’s odd that LP really doesn’t discuss the area (especially restaurants) much. The other book I have mentions it even less. [/quote]

I guess the lack of coverage is part of what I like about the area. It’s still a relatively undiscovered gem. Some of these hotels have been there for 12 years now and though there are big plans for growth and closed communities in the future, there is still only a half dozen resorts. Makes it hard to do research, but if you use the tools like the traveler forums rather than the tour books (I agree with you that Fodor’s and Lonely Planet don’t cover it extensively) you can get a ton of information.

I posted some info on the accommodations in Bayahibe under the thread posted at http://debsdrtravels.proboards47.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=9146 You could look to the Hotel Bayahibe which is fine in all ways, but it advertises in a way that some other options don’t so gets coverage. That doesn’t mean it has to be your only non-AI option. If you are okay in the tourist townsite of Dominicus, look into Cabana Elke which is on the Dominicus Beach. A bit more expensive than my favourite, Villa Iguana, but I guess that’s because you’re right on the water. For good prices, character, fab accommodations and a safe homey atmosphere, do take a look at the Villa. http://www.villaiguana.de/bayahibe_village.htm

Kaki

I sent a PM to Kaki, but I’ll pose this here as well…

There are a couple of draws for me, for the north side. One, more restaurants are listed. Between Sosua and Cabarete, there are a ton of tasty-sounding places. I don’t get that from what I’ve read about the Bayahibe area, though as you said, not as much is listed. I might go south even with this element unknown. Maybe the food near the beach would keep me happy.

Two, I’d like to go to Ocean World (particularly to do a dolphin encounter), and I’m sure my son would love it. If there’s a good place to wade around with dolphins near Bayahibe, that might help sway me. :wink:

And third - while I haven’t completely figured out the layout there yet, it seems kind of spread out. In Sosua, it looks as though you can walk to almost everything; most of the hotels and restaurants are within a span of maybe half a kilometer. I don’t want to rent a car if I can help it.

What do you think?

[quote=@zannster]I sent a PM to Kaki, but I’ll pose this here as well…

There are a couple of draws for me, for the north side. One, more restaurants are listed. Between Sosua and Cabarete, there are a ton of tasty-sounding places. I don’t get that from what I’ve read about the Bayahibe area, though as you said, not as much is listed. I might go south even with this element unknown. Maybe the food near the beach would keep me happy.

Two, I’d like to go to Ocean World (particularly to do a dolphin encounter), and I’m sure my son would love it. If there’s a good place to wade around with dolphins near Bayahibe, that might help sway me. :wink:

And third - while I haven’t completely figured out the layout there yet, it seems kind of spread out. In Sosua, it looks as though you can walk to almost everything; most of the hotels and restaurants are within a span of maybe half a kilometer. I don’t want to rent a car if I can help it.

What do you think?[/quote]

You really are forging new territory to be one who visits the non AI properties of Bayahibe, eats in the village, explores the area AND comes to Debbie’s or other places to review your experience for future travelers or to post on your experience. Again, very few people visit the area in general if only because there are dozens of resorts from Puerto Plata to Samana, and dozens in the Punta Cana area with a few new ones opening each year. As I said, there are about 6 that people visit in the “La Romana” area which just plain ol’ doesn’t translate to big numbers. Most people at these forums and where reports are posted tend to go the AI route, leaving for a meal at a well publicized restaurant or to meet for drinks at the famous local watering holes. Even though a lot of people do that in Bayahibe, again, they just don’t talk about it in the places where you might be doing your research. I’ve met a lot of people through this forum but it very quickly moves to PM and e-mails, we meet, we hang out, and then we stay friends for years after but they don’t come back after their vacation to post comments on their stay.

I understand the desire to read reviews and feel like you’re visiting a hot spot that is well recommended and if that’s what you want, absolutely the north coast will give you that. I haven’t dined at all, but I can tell you that there’s a lot of selection in Bayahibe whether people talk about it or not.

All along the one street called Bahia that goes along the water, there’s Barco Bar and Cafe:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2131810070064234328SEWcbO][/URL]

and La Bahia:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2394645390064234328TzaSjp][/URL]

and Mare Nostrum:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2440251570064234328FTpEzu][/URL]

and La Punta:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2669228820064234328EoZvMA][/URL]

and La Jungla:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2841019000064234328rfZspO][/URL]

and Bamboo Grill:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2193850150064234328DkpJFz][/URL]

and Cafecito de la Cubana:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2499082400064234328TMorus][/URL]

The place under the big tree is one of those which serves home cooking, no frills:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2223406840064234328udXXLP][/URL]

and there are lots of them, this being another:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2514001340064234328jwTNMI][/URL]

Leaving the village by 100 feet toward the Bayahibe Beach, there is a string of little establishments like this:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2276236570064234328jLEyyk][/URL]

which is in the area of trees just beyond the boats here:

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2869812480064234328pDyluW][/URL]

Again, I haven’t tried them all and can’t recommend them but there’s no shortage of meal options in this tiny village.

There is no option similar to Ocean World anywhere in the country other than Ocean World. If that’s a big thing for you (I don’t blame you!), you’ll only find it in the north. Dolphins are regularly seen in the waters of the Bayahibe Bay but they’re there of their own volition and you can’t be guaranteed to see them, let alone swim with them!

Bayahibe isn’t really all that large at all. You need some perspective to have it make sense, but you can see on this Google Earth image the whole of Bayahibe and the Sunscape resort.

[URL=http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2990746670064234328oYwGQc][/URL]

To walk from the resort to Bayahibe takes 10 minutes in a stroll. You can see the point, and then the bay along which runs the road with all of the listed restaurants. If you’re interested, I have a zoomed image of Bayahibe which I have marked to show where a few of the restaurants are and the main colmado, the bus stop to get to Dominicus and La Romana, Villa Iguana, etc. Send me a note if you’d like me to send it to you. kaki.ulan@sasktel.net It would depend on what you’d want to see or do that would determine whether you’d need to rent a car. For Bayahibe, it’s absolutely not necessary. To get to the public beach in Dominicus, you can easily take the gua gua for the 10 minute drive, or a cab. To go to La Romana you can again take the gua gua, and if you were to go to the Jumbo or were to buy things, you could just take a cab back. If you do any excursions, you will be collected in Bayahibe.

If you like the idea of a tried and true location with restaurants that many people have recommended near swimming with the dolphins, you may be happier up north for this trip. If the beautiful calm clear water with easy snorkeling and being an explorer sounds appealing, give Bayahibe a try. If you do Sosua now, you can do Bayahibe another time!

Kaki

[quote=@zannster]We have a nearly four-year-old whom we’d like to take on a DR trip. We’ve never been there.

My first choice (not knowing anything else) was Cabarete. I’d like to take our son to Ocean World, and that seemed like a good spot, not too far away. I like the restaurant options and the fact that there are a variety of good hotels. We’re not really interested in staying in an all-inclusive. I see many claims about how much cheaper all-inclusive resorts are, but I don’t find that to be the case, at least not for the time we’re going (late Dec/early Jan). I suppose that given the food you get, it’s a good deal, but we’d just as soon try a variety of different restaurants than only eat at resort buffets.

Anyway…the main problem with Cabarete is I’m concerned that the wind and waves will be a bit much for my preschooler. I noticed that Sosua’s beaches are a little more protected, so I thought maybe they’d be gentler…but I’m not as impressed with the hotels or restaurants (with a few exceptions), and I keep seeing comments about Sosua’s reputation, which make me a little concerned.

Punta Cana/Bavaro caught my attention because they’re so kid-friendly and the beaches are better for little ones. But it seems like nearly all the hotels are resorts, and there aren’t many other businesses. That’s just the perception I get from the Lonely Planet guide.

I guess what we’d like is a clean, not too big, not too destitute area, but not really a glam touristy place either. A little authenticity is good. We expect to spend most of our time visiting local restaurants (LOL) and hanging out at the beach, with maybe a day in Puerto Plata area (if we’re on the North Coast) and a day or two for venturing elsewhere on the Island (haven’t decided that yet).

Any tips/suggestions/info? [/quote]

If its calm clear picture postcard blue sea with white sand your after then go to the south of the island were we found peace and tranquility 5 years ago.

That said we have just returned from the North Coast around Puerto Plata were we all had a brilliant holiday staying at the ‘Grand Oasis Marien’ Hotel - Puerto Plata.

We thought the Hotel and its staff were superb value for money and offered our group of Adults and teenagers exactly what they wanted in terms of quality and activity.

Looks good!

I have come to the conclusion that I will just do the dolphin swim elsewhere, at a later time - I’ve been wanting to visit the FL keys and Hawaii anyway. :wink:

Thanks for all the input!

We are officially booked for LRM. Woohoo!